The Senate’s health care bill has been released in “discussion draft” form, and it confirms our worst fears – if this bill passes into law as it’s currently written, the core structures of ObamaCare will remain in place, and Republicans will have blown their mandate to fix the nation’s ailing health care delivery system. It’s no wonder four conservative senators – Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulDem wins Kentucky state House seat in district Trump won by 49 points GOP's tax reform bait-and-switch will widen inequality Pentagon budget euphoria could be short-lived MORE (R-Ky.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week MORE (R-Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework Prison sentencing bill advances over Sessions objections Grassley ‘incensed’ by Sessions criticism of proposed sentencing reform legislation MORE (R-Utah), and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump spars with GOP lawmakers on steel tariffs Overnight Regulation: Trump unveils budget | Sharp cuts proposed for EPA, HHS | Trump aims to speed environmental reviews | Officials propose repealing most of methane leak rule Trump budget seeks savings through ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Wis.) – didn’t even wait a day before announcing they could not vote for it in its present form. The question now is, will the rest of the Senate GOP Conference agree to amend the draft to satisfy their concerns, or will Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure MORE fail to keep the campaign promise that won him the majority in the first place?

First, the good news. Like the House’s bill, the Senate bill effectively repeals both ObamaCare’s individual mandate and employer mandate. 

Also like the House bill, the Senate bill repeals almost all of ObamaCare’s new and higher taxes, leaving only the “Cadillac Tax” in place.

Now, the bad news. And where better to begin than with the assessment of Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of ObamaCare, who famously said ObamaCare was passed because the American people were too “stupid” to understand it?” Gloated Gruber on Thursday morning, following the draft’s release, “This is no longer an ObamaCare repeal bill. That’s good.”


It’s not an ObamaCare repeal bill because it leaves in place ObamaCare’s core insurance regulations that prevent health insurance companies from pricing policies based on individual risk assessments. Instead, unlike the House bill – which at least offers states the ability to ask for a waiver of these provisions – the Senate bill leaves in place so-called “Community Rating,” the single biggest driver of health insurance premium increases.

Nor does the draft bill make health care more affordable. Instead, it simply throws more taxpayer dollars at the problem, to subsidize increasingly unaffordable health care.

Worse, it relies on elected officials who haven’t even been elected yet to do the work current elected officials don’t want to do. Regarding ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, the Senate bill would keep the expansion alive until 2024. We’ll have three new Congresses elected before then, and maybe even a new president – and, as we all know, no Congress can bind a future Congress. There’s no guarantee that a phase-out passed this year legislated to begin seven years from now will ever take place; in fact, the smart money would bet that the phase-out would not occur seven years down the road, or ever.

Senate Republicans should be aware: Passing this bill will leave the core elements of ObamaCare’s architecture in place, and will do nothing to reduce costs and prices. But responsibility for a failing healthcare system will shift in the public’s eyes from the Democrats who enacted ObamaCare to the Republicans who changed it without repealing it.

Paul, Cruz, Lee and Johnson understand this, and are working to improve the bill.

Cruz, for instance, has circulated among his colleagues a number of potential amendments. One suggests adding “a provision that says that any insurance company that offers at least one plan that meets the [insurance company] mandates can also sell any other plans that consumers desire.” That would greatly increase choice and competition, and would help lead to lower premium prices.

A second possible Cruz amendment would “enact ‘consensus’ market reforms,” including: “(a) allowing consumer to purchase insurance across state lines; (b) expanding association health plans, so those in individual or small group markets can join together in large groups to get lower prices; (c) allowing people to pay health insurance premiums from health savings accounts, which lowers premiums immediately by letting them be purchased with pre-tax dollars; and (d) giving a bonus in federal Medicaid matching funds to states that enact caps on punitive damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.”

If these four Republicans can amend the discussion draft substantially, the millions of Americans who worked their hind ends off to give Senate Republicans the majority may be able to support the bill. But if their amendments fall on deaf ears, they would be justified – and the rest of their Senate GOP colleagues would be wise – to vote against this turkey of a bill and go back to the drawing board. Better not to pass anything at all than to pass a bill that fails to repeal ObamaCare’s core elements, but shifts blame to Republicans for the ongoing mess.

Jenny Beth Martin (@JennyBethM) is president and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.